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Yes vote for the next generation

Published 5:49am Monday, March 25, 2013 Updated 7:53am Monday, March 25, 2013

Those of us who attended public schools in Fergus Falls, and who have seen our children go through the same school system, want to do our part in making sure the educational system is the best it can be for the next generation. That’s why I plan to vote yes on Tuesday, April 2, for the outdoor facilities bond referendum.

Before making this final decision, I asked the opinions of two former teachers and coaches, Terry Harrington and Wally Pearson.

Harrington’s thoughts on this subject came from two different perspectives, as a track coach and physical education instructor.

“The track was state of the art and one of the very few all weather tracks, in 1972. Now it is 2013,” said Harrington.

The outdoor facilities proposal includes an eight-lane track and a new area for all track and field events.

“Right now no one wants to come to a six-lane track and we have no section or conference meets,” said Harrington. “There’s also the safety factor.”

With senior high boys and girls, middle school boys and girls, Hillcrest and Special Olympics, and all the people who use the current track for their personal training, it puts lots of people on the track, albeit not at the same time.

“As a coach who works with hurdlers, they need three lanes to work with,” said Harrington. “One lane is for boys, one for girls, and at least one between for the side drills over the hurdles. At the same time, there are sprinters, distance runners, and relay people working on the track. It puts lots of stress on six lanes.”

Harrington said the new outdoor facilities also would greatly enhance physical education.

“With current outdoor facilities, the location of the field cuts up any large spaces for physical education classes,” he said. “The location makes any other green space very small and not very usable for many physical education classes.”

Harrington said that with the Kennedy Secondary School (former middle school complex) now including grades 6-12, adequate space for outdoor physical education is limited.

“You have three physical education classes at one time, and the middle school needs space for noon time,” said. “That leaves very little room.”

Pearson, a retired coach and math instructor, also points to the current lack of adequate green space.

“I came to Fergus Falls in 1966,” he said. “The kids practiced football on the levee. The field was okay for the first two weeks, but then it became so hard that cleats couldn’t penetrate the ground. We didn’t have adequate irrigation.”

Today, almost a half century later, he said outdoor facility shortcomings are still a problem.

“The practice field has moved, but the results are still the same,” said Pearson. “Last fall, while watching a freshman football game, I glanced over at the varsity squad running sprints. With each step, dust would rise from the ground. It was bare of grass and was hard. You couldn’t call this green space.”

I agree with Harrington and Pearson who both say we need improved outdoor facilities that have adequate space, free of rocks, so that our physical education students and sports teams can enjoy their years at Kennedy Secondary School.

“I’m proud of our teams, our band, participants in other activities, and our schools in general,” said Pearson. “It’s time for us to be proud of our outdoor facilities, as well.”

New and adequate green spaces also will allow for an onsite environmental learning area. The school district is trying to maximize the use of every square inch of the existing Kennedy site.

The April 2 bond referendum focuses only on the Kennedy Secondary School site: two softball fields, eight tennis courts, football/track/soccer complex with new handicapped accessible bleachers, expanded green space for physical education with an irrigation system, in addition to the environmental learning area.

With expiration this year of the 1994 bond referendum for the science wing and media center at the old high school, school taxes will decrease. That’s the case even with passage of the outdoor facilities bond referendum.

For me, voting yes is the right thing to do. We owe it to the next generation of students.


Tom Hintgen writes a weekly column for The Journal.

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